TA Spotlight: TJ LaGrow

Every other week we spotlight an OMSCS TA, so you can get to know who's behind the screen. Here are four questions for TJ LaGrow, who TAs CS 7642: Reinforcement Learning.

TJ LaGrow


What do you do professionally?
I am a fourth-year Ph.D. and first-year MBA candidate at Georgia Tech in the ECE Department and Scheller College of Business under Shella Keilholz and Jeffrey Davis. I work in the Keilholz Mind Lab where I disentangle global signal artifacts in whole brain fMRI data. I am particularly interested in the topics of network switching in neurodegenerative diseases, how deep reinforcement learning can qualify datasets in MRI, multimodal data fusion, and how to leverage MR sequencing to better elucidate neural structure. On the business side, I am studying innovation technology management through the TI:GER (Technology Innovation: Generating Economic Revenue) program. Concurrently, I am the technical director and co-founder of the Atlanta startup Insight Optics, enabling local physicians to conduct retinal fundus exams preventing diabetic co-morbidities.

Why do you TA for OMSCS?
I aspire to become a professor in my career. OMSCS has given me the opportunity to expand my teaching experiences in a uniquely virtual environment where dissemination of material is concise, efficient, and exciting. As a returning TA to CS 7642: Reinforcement Learning, the teaching staff has developed a way to enrich the course material by pairing lecture topics with updated paper dissemination during bi-weekly office hours. This has led to meaningful experiences to both the students and teaching staff as we pick apart cutting-edge topics and think about ways to promote theory to application. With the ever-changing nature of the field, this dynamic environment is one of the main reasons I continue to TA for OMSCS.

What's your advice for future students in OMSCS?
Don’t be intimidated by academic research papers! Many of the topics throughout the OMSCS program come from papers written in the last 10 years and are easier to read than people might think, especially if you know the structure and how to read the papers. Konrad Kording and Brett Mensh have a paper, Ten simple rules for structuring papers, that break down the various components of a paper. There is great satisfaction in diving deeper into the original source material and finding nuance in the literature. I highly recommend it for everyone!

What's your best study hack?
Break down your daily schedule using Ben Franklin’s method of planning his day. Every morning I wake up and fill out a box chart of all the hours in my day to better compartmentalize my work. This helps keep me focused, especially when I am studying and working on projects. I have tried many methods in the past for time management, and this is by far the most effective for me. Additionally, there are two questions I ask myself in the morning and at night: What good shall I do this day? What good have I done this day? This has helped my self-reflection and information retention, especially as my schedule becomes busier and busier.